Penelope “Punky” Brewster (Soleil Moon Frye) was a unique young girl whose father walked out on her and mother abandoned her. She took residence in an empty apartment with her dog, Brandon, where she was eventually discovered by the building manager, photographer and curmudgeon Henry Warnimont (George Gaynes). Despite some personality conflicts and the best efforts of social services to put her in a “better” environment, she ended up becoming Henry’s adopted daughter. Punky’s friends included neighbor Cherie Johnson (niece of the series creator who used her own name) and her grandmother, Betty (Susie Garrett, who was actually her grandmother), geeky Allen Anderson (Casey Ellison), and stuck-up rich girl Margaux Kramer (Ami Foster).
The series was created by David W. Duclon with input from NBC’s programming chief Brandon Tartikoff (for whom the dog was named). Tartikoff’s involvement is what led to the lead character’s unique name, taken from a childhood crush named Peyton “Punky” Brewster. NBC secured the rights to use her name for the show and even hired her to do a cameo in an episode (credited as Peyton B. Rutledge, her married name).
|Punky with Cherie, Allen, Glomer, Brandon and Margaux.|
It’s Punky Brewster featured the entire Punky cast reprising their roles with the exception of Garrett and T.K. Carter, however they were joined by a new character: Glomer (Frank Welker). Glomer was a magical being from Chaundoon, a city at the end of the rainbow. Glomer used his powers to transport the kids to various places, gave Brandon the ability to talk (courtesy of Welker), transformed the kids into statues or shrank them, and sometimes just caused general chaos that he’d have to straighten out. Glomer was added as a way to keep kids interested in the show, as well as have the characters perpetually in adventures.
|Poor Henry was kept in the dark.|
It’s Punky Brewster debuted on NBC on September 14, 1985 and was produced by Ruby-Spears Productions. Each episode was comprised of two 11-minute segments, and featured music by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy. The cartoon was picked up for a second season, but only the first three episodes contained two original segments. For the rest of the show’s run, a new segment was paired up with a rerun from the previous season. The series was written by Cliff Roberts, Sheryl Scarborough, Gary Greenfield, Diane Dixon, Kayte Kuch, Michael Chain, Jack Enyart, Elana Lesser, Cliff Ruby, Gene Ayres, Ted Field, Matt Uitz, Barbara Chain, Janis Diamond, Herb Engelhardt and Reed Robbins, with Lesser, Kuch, Ruby and Scarborough serving as story editors.
|Punky: the doll!|
After NBC cancelled the show, it was used later in 1987 to replace their cancelled pre-teen show 2 Hip 4 TV. In 1989, the series was included as a rotating feature along with DiC Entertainment’s Beverly Hills Teens to pad out DiC’s Maxie’s World syndication package. Among the collectibles made available for the show was a lunchbox by Thermos, a series of coloring books and a paper doll book by Golden Books, and a read-along book by Tele-Story.
|Punky on VHS.|
In 1985, various episodes were released on several VHS tapes by Celebrity Home Entertainment. Between 2004 and 2008, Shout! Factory released all four seasons of the live show. Included as special features were episodes of the animated series split between them. “The Shoe Must Go On” is the only episode missing as Shout! ran into rights issues with the licensed song “Axel F” by Harold Faltermeyer. In 2009, Cartoon Network’s Robot Chicken parodied the cartoon with Frye returning to voice her character. Seth Grew took over as Henry while Tom Kane filled in as Glomer.